Wednesday, September 16, 2009

How to make miniature figures using a polymer clay mold

How to make miniature figures using polymer clay mold : Sculpey Mold MakerI remember when I was a boy into scale models I always wanted the kit with spare figures in it so that I could display them diorama style in my cabinet. Ok, I admit, when I was young I usually didn't display my models but rather played with them. And the figures accentuated the game play and gave me the opportunity to monologue... hehehe. Of course I took extra steps to ensure that I didn't break them.

So when I suddenly took up my passion for collecting kits all over again I was looking for figures to complement the package. I'm lousy at figure sculpting but I found out however that you can actually make figures with a mold made out of polymer clay if you have an already pre-existing figure. This can be done with the use of some Mold Maker from Sculpey. Its basically a form of clay that needs to be baked in order to harden. Its difference from regular clay is that its sort of rubbery after baking making it easy for you to pull out your casted item. The drawback is that usually only one side of the figure can be casted in the mold, leaving the other side bare. You'd have to make another mold of the other side then use your fingers and a little bit of creativity to combine them together.

So the figure I wanted to copy was my 1/60 Hikaru Ichijo that came with my VF-1S from Yamato. The process first starts by generously applying powder with a brush to the figure. The powder acts as a release agent so that the figure can disengaged easily from the soft mold. If you don't have any powder you can use cornstarch.
How to make miniature figures using polymer clay mold : brushing with powder
Then you cut up a block of Sculpey Mold Maker that is a few millimeters thicker than the dimensions of your figure.
How to make miniature figures using polymer clay mold : cut up a size slightly greater than the figure

Gently push the figure into the mold ensuring that there isn't too much movement in other directions other than forward to ensure that the details will be accurately captured.
How to make miniature figures using polymer clay mold : Gently push the figure into the mold
Here's the figure now pressed into the mold. You can't press it fully in because you might not have anything left to grab on too when you try to remove the figure from the mold.
How to make miniature figures using polymer clay mold : figure in the mold
After its in, gently pull out the figure from the mold.
How to make miniature figures using polymer clay mold : pulling out the figure
This is a shot of the unbaked mold. You then place this mold in an oven or toaster to bake which will then cure and harden the mold. Its very important that you bake your mold in a well ventilated area and that you are not exposed to the fumes when baking. They are said to be toxic, that is also why you should have a dedicated oven or toaster for baking clay that won’t be used in food preparation.
How to make miniature figures using polymer clay mold : unbaked mold
Once the mold has been baked, you can then get a block of polymer clay and push it into the mold. Make sure that your clay is large enough that when you push it into the mold it leaves you with a large enough area that can act as your handle when pulling out the mold.
How to make miniature figures using polymer clay mold : with clay imprinted on the mold
After the figure is pulled out from the mold, you can use an x-acto knife to slice off the excess clay used as a handle for pulling out the figure.
How to make miniature figures using polymer clay mold : using x-acto knife to slice off the excess clay

How to make miniature figures using polymer clay mold : using x-acto knife to slice off the excess clay
Here's a shot of the figure with the excess clay sliced off.
How to make miniature figures using polymer clay mold : figure with the excess clay cut off
The great thing about it is since the clay figure is soft, I can change the pose a bit. Like here I switched it from a sitting pose to a standing pose. If you are planning to sculpt the figure some more in order to accentuate or fix the details lost during molding, I would suggest using Super Sculpey Firm clay instead because its hard enough and doesn't give away easily the details you impose with the force of a sculpting tool. After the clay is hardened I can also work on it further with the use of some files and a cutter.
How to make miniature figures using polymer clay mold : changing the pose of the figure

The Scupley Mold Maker is not limited only to figures, you can use it to help in your clay making process. Typically its used for mass production wherein using a mold would greatly speed up your work, or if you want some quality in the consistency of the clay object that you are making.

A sample below of some of the molds made using Sculpey Mold Maker. The first two molds was used to make a cartoon dog clay figure. On the left is a mold of the dog's snout, after that is a mold of his feet. The third mold was actually used to make the rice found on the sushi clay sculpture below.
How to make miniature figures using polymer clay mold cartoon figures